Christmas 2020, part 1 | Michigan | Written by Curtis
For the Christmas and New Years season we decided to visit both sides of our family and spend time with them for the holidays. We have been essentially quarantined to just ourselves and Charlotte for most of the fall, so we felt that we could safely make the trip with minimal risk to others. On the Saturday before Christmas we packed our bags for a 2 week trip and left home around 7AM.
Living in Bellevue presents us with the opportunity of taking a different route to Michigan than simply I-80, or at least through Iowa and West Illinois. This time, we opted to drive straight across Iowa via US-34 end-to-end (and yes we do track those statistics as well). We had previously nabbed most of the courthouses along this route during our Thanksgiving travels, but we were able to grab the last courthouse in the line with Des Moines Co. in Burlington, Iowa.
Then we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois and our first new county of the trip with Henderson County. A quick jog North of US-34 to the town of Oquawka got us the very quaint accompanying courthouse. We met back up with US-34 in Monmouth, IL for our third and final courthouse of the day with Warren Co. Then we drove and drove and drove following US-34 back up to I-80 and our normal route around the South side of Lake Michigan. Some day we’ll figure out a way to not follow the lakeshore in order to get into Michigan, even if it takes an entire extra day of driving to do so.
My family was glad to see us, considering we hadn’t seen each other since the derecho this past August, and that hardly counts given the circumstances. An added bonus was that my sister was at home following her first semester of college.
That Sunday, we decided to take a letterboxing trip up to a new-to-us county and drove North to Stanton, MI and the Montcalm Co. Courthouse. We looked for some letterboxes in town before heading south a short distance to some nature trails behind the Montcalm Community College. The weather was very mild for being a day before the Winter Solstice and there was only small patches of slush on the ground, but we enjoyed walking through the woods with Charlotte and my parent’s dog Sweets. We were fairly successful in finding letterboxes before having to call it a day and head back home.
Our second full day with my family was spent making and decorating Christmas sugar cookies and listening to Christmas music. In the afternoon, we decided to get some exercise and take the dogs for a walk around Sessions Lake in nearby Ionia County.
The weather was again very mild in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s so our walk was very pleasant and largely alone. Along the east end of the lake we heard and saw some form of waterfowl flying overhead. They were distinctly not Canada Geese. Later back at the car, we saw white birds on the lake, so we think they might have been swans, perhaps trumpeter swans based on the call. Also along the trail we saw a juvenile raccoon cross the path, but fortunately neither dog took much interest. Sweets set a much faster pace than Charlotte usually does, so we were done in no time and on our way home, but not before swinging through Ionia to see another Michigan Courthouse.
We spent an additional day and most of Wednesday morning with my family celebrating Christmas (albeit a day or two early). It’s hard to believe, but we have not been able to celebrate Christmas (or most holidays for that matter) with either of our families since 2015 (and even then, we celebrated a few weeks early as we were moving across the country).
On Wednesday afternoon, we packed up the car and said our goodbyes. We retraced our route back South through Michigan and around Chicago. We had thought about taking other highway roads and stopping for courthouses, but it started raining and we decided we were losing the sun too fast to get good pictures, so we stuck with the quickest route and made it to Iowa in time for dinner.